‘Back in the day’ this writer tried everything against the French defense, and it was like banging your head against a brick wall. I particularly recall losing several games to NM Rex Blalock, who if I recall correctly, came from France (not really, but it sure seemed that way). Memory fails, but I probably played 2 Qe2 versus his French at least once, and it was probably a loss. Nevertheless, it was my preferred method of playing against the venerable French defense, always a tough nut to crack, and theresults were much better than with more common lines. There was some success with the line 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. Bd3 cxd4 6. O-O, the C02 French, advance, Nimzovich system, which was used as a surprise weapon when first beginning play. The first time the move 2 Qe2 versus the French defense appeared on the AWDAR it was found appealing. What can I say? I love the offbeat. During the Stein Club daze I went into a Qe2 versus any and everything period.
After 1 e4 e6 one finds the most often played move, 2 d4, has scored 56% in 118490 games according to the ChessBaseDataBase (https://database.chessbase.com/). The move 2 c4 has been played in only 902 games, and is the only move to outscore 2 d4, showing a 57% rate of success. In 2122 games the move of the Queen to e2 has also scored 56%. What did Chigorin know and when did he know it?
An article entitled, French Defense Chigorin Attack, by misterbasic, published Jul 10, 2016 (https://www.chess.com/forum/view/chess-openings/french-defense-chigorin-attack) begins: “When someone plays French Defense (1.e4 e6), they always have something prepared and I know nothing about that opening, so I have started playing the Chigorin Attack, which is the move 2.Qe2.” The first comment was by the aggressivesociopath: “Your opponents are rather militant about avoiding the critical lines. If this is to be a serious discussion, then you should focus on 2..c5 3. g3 Nc6 4. Nf3 g6 5. Nf3 Bg7 6. O-O Nge7.” The “aggressivesociopath” must have meant 5. Bg2, the move played by passivesociopaths.
This is a key position not only in the Chigorin French, but in any opening in which black has developed the Bishop to g7 and the King Knight to e7. In the main game being presented the player with the white pieces essayed the most often played move according to 365Chess.com, 7 d3, the preferred move of Deep Fritz 13, according to the CBDB. Yet Stockfish 10 shows a predilection for 7 c3, as does Stockfish 14+NNUE at lichess.com. From the position it is obvious the dark squared prelate on g7 is exerting HUGE pressure on the white position. The move 7 c3 blunts the projected force. In addition, the move prepares the possible move of the pawn move d2-d4. But wait, there’s more! After playing 7 c3 white can now develop the Queen Knight to a3, possibly followed by again moving that Knight to c2 in preparation for the move of the d pawn. What’s not to like?!
FM Austin Mei vs GM Joshua Sheng
Winter 1000GM Bay Area IM Norm Invitational Rd 7
French Defense: Chigorin Variation
- e4 e6 2. Qe2 c5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O Nge7 7. d3 O-O 8. h4 e5 9. Be3 d6 10. Nc3 f5 11. exf5 gxf5 12. Bg5 h6 13. Bxe7 Nxe7 14. Nd2 d5 15. f4 e4 16. dxe4 fxe4 17. Rad1 Qe8 18. Nb3 Bxc3 19. bxc3 Qg6 20. Qe1 Bg4 21. Rd2 Rae8 22. Nxc5 Qb6 23. Qf2 Rc8 24. Nxe4 dxe4 25. Qxb6 axb6 26. Bxe4 Rxc3 27. Kh2 Nf5 28. Rb1 Rxg3 29. Rxb6 Rh3+ 30. Kg1 Bf3 31. Bxf5 Rxf5 32. Rxh6 Rxf4 33. Rg6+ Kf7 34. Rg5 Bc6 35. Rh2 Rxh2 36. Kxh2 Rxh4+ 37. Kg3 Rc4 38. Ra5 Rxc2 39. Kf4 Ke6 40. Ke3 Rc4 41. Kd3 Ra4 42. Rxa4 Bxa4 43. Kc4 Kd6 44. Kb4 b5 45. Ka3 Kc5 46. Kb2 Kb4 47. Ka1 Kc3 48. Kb1 Bc2+ 49. Ka1 b4 50. a3 b3 0-1 (https://lichess.org/study/twjlOJV6/oI2GlI9W)
The game was downloaded and, to my surprise, there were annotations, the first time I can recall anything but the game moves being found after clicking on “import.”
- e4 e6 2. Qe2 c5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O Nge7 7. d3 O-O 8. h4 e5 9. Be3 d6 10. Nc3 f5 11. exf5 (11. Qd2) 11… gxf5 12. Bg5 h6 13. Bxe7 Nxe7 14. Nd2 d5 15. f4 e4 16. dxe4 fxe4 17. Rad1 Qe8 18. Nb3 Bxc3 19. bxc3 Qg6 20. Qe1 Bg4 21. Rd2 Rae8 22. Nxc5 (22. c4 Nf5) 22… Qb6 23. Qf2 Rc8 (23… Nf5 24. Rxd5 e3 25. Qe1 e2 26. Rf2 Ne3 27. Nd3 Nxc2 28. Qd2 Qb1+ 29. Kh2 Qd1 30. Rxe2) 24. Nxe4 dxe4 25. Qxb6 axb6 26. Bxe4 Rxc3 27. Kh2 Nf5 28. Rb1 (28. Re1) 28… Rxg3 29. Rxb6 Rh3+ 30. Kg1 Bf3 31. Bxf5 (31. Bxf3 Rxf3 32. Rf2 Rc3 33. Rxb7 Nxh4 34. a4 Ra3 35. c4 Rxa4 36. Rc7 Rf7 37. Rxf7 Kxf7) 31… Rxf5 32. Rxh6 Rxf4 33. Rg6+ Kf7 34. Rg5 Bc6 35. Rh2 Rxh2 36. Kxh2 Rxh4+ 37. Kg3 Rc4 38. Ra5 Rxc2 39. Kf4 Ke6 40. Ke3 Rc4 41. Kd3 Ra4 42. Rxa4 (42. Rh5 Kd6 43. Kc3 Rxa2 44. Kb3 Re2 45. Kc3 Re4 46. Rh8 Kc5 47. Rh7 b5 48. Rc7 Rf4) 42… Bxa4 43. Kc4 Kd6 44. Kb4 b5 45. Ka3 Kc5 46. Kb2 Kb4 47. Ka1 (47. Kb1 Kc3 48. Kc1 Bc2 49. a3 Ba4 50. Kb1 Bb3 51. a4 b4 52. a5 Bc2+ 53. Ka2 b3+) 47… Kc3 48. Kb1 Bc2+ 49. Ka1 b4 50. a3 b3 0-1
1 e4 e6 2 Qe2 (OK, we all know the Fish sets Stock in 2 d4, but where is the fun in that?) 2…c5 (According to the Stockfish program 14+ NNUE at depth 47 at lichess.com the move should be 2…e5, but the Stockfish 15 program at the CBDB at depth 51 plays 2…c5) 3 Nf3 (Stockfish 14+ NNUE at depth 48 plays 3 g3, with 396 games in the CBDB. With 1030 games the move played in the game has been played three times as often as 3 g3. SF 15 at depth 46 will play 3 d3, as have only 19 other players in the CBDB. Then there is Stockfish 061022 which will play 3 b3, as have 84 human players) 3…Nc6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 (Nge7) 6. O-O Nge7 (e5) 7. d3 (c3) O-O (d6) 8. h4 (c3) e5
Fjodor Zugaj (2180) vs Pregarac, V.
Event: Portoroz op
Site: Portoroz Date: ??/??/1996
ECO: C00 French, Chigorin variation
1.e4 e6 2.Qe2 c5 3.g3 Nc6 4.Nf3 g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.O-O Nge7 7.d3 O-O 8.h4 h6 9.Re1 d6 10.c3 b6 11.Nbd2 Ba6 12.Nf1 Ne5 13.Rd1 Qd7 14.Ne3 Nxf3+ 15.Bxf3 Nc6 16.Bg2 b5 17.Ng4 h5 18.Nh2 Qe7 19.Bg5 Bf6 20.Be3 Rac8 21.d4 c4 22.Bf3 Kg7 23.Bd2 Qc7 24.Kg2 b4 25.Qe3 Rh8 26.Be2 d5 27.e5 Be7 28.Nf3 bxc3 29.bxc3 Rb8 30.Re1 Qa5 31.Ng5 Rb2 32.Qf3 Nd8 33.Red1 Rxa2 34.Rxa2 Qxa2 35.Nh3 Bb5 36.Bg5 Bxg5 37.Nxg5 Qc2 38.Qf6+ Kh6 39.Qxh8# 1-0
The three games below were all found at the CBDB, meaning your writer had to transcribe each and every one of them. Enjoy.
Haik M Martirosyan 2633 ARM vs Conrad Holt 2553 USA
Titled Tuesday intern open 22nd Feb Late
- e4 e6 2. Qe2 c5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O Nge7 7. d3 O-O 8. h4 e5 9. h5 d5 10. hxg6 hxg6 11. exd5 Nxd5 12. Nc3 Bg4 13. Nxd5 Qxd5 14. Qe3 Qd7 15. Bd2 Rac8 16. Rfe1 Rfe8 17. Qg5 e4 18. dxe4 Bxb2 19. Rab1 Bg7 20. e5 b6 21. Bf4 Qf5 22. Qh4 Bxf3 23. Bxf3 Nd4 24. Bg4 Qxc2 25. Rbd1 Rcd8 26. Bg5 Rd5 27. Bf6 Qxa2 28. Kg2 Nf5 29. Bxf5 Rxd1 30. Rxd1 Bxf6 31. exf6 Qe2 32. Qh6 1-0
SF prefers 25 Qh1!
FM Ricardo B Franca 2278 BRA vs IM Kirill Shubin 2429 RUS
Titled Tuesday intern op 25th AUG
- e4 e6 2. Qe2 c5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O Nge7 7. d3 O-O 8. h4 e5 9. h5 d6 10. hxg6 fxg6 11. Nh4 Nd4 12. Qd1 Bf6 13. c3 Ne6 14. Bh6 Rf7 15. Bh3 Bxh4 16. gxh4 Nf4 17. Bxc8 Qxc8 18. Qf3 Nh3+ 0-1
GM Evgeni Janev 2487 BUL vs FM Joao Francisco ANG
Loures YM 9th
- e4 e6 2. d3 c5 3. Qe2 g6 4. g3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Bg7 6. Bg2 Nge7 7. O-O O-O 8. h4 e5 9. c3 d6 10. Nh2 f5 11. exf5 gxf5 12. f4 Kh8 13. Na3 Be6 14. Nf3 Qd7 15. fxe5 dxe5 16. Nc4 Bxc4 17. dxc4 h6 18. Nh2 Qd6 19. Be3 e4 20. Bf4 Ne5 21. Bh3 N7g6 22. Be3 Nxc4 23. Kh1 Qxg3 24. Bxc5 Qxh3 25. Bxf8 Rxf8 26. Qxc4 Be5 27. Rf2 Nxh4 28. Qf1 Qg3 29. Qg1 e3 30. Re2 Qxg1+ 31. Rxg1 Bf4 32. Rf1 Bg5 33. Ng4 Re8 34. Nf2 f4 35. Nd3 Nf5 36. Kg2 Ng3 37. Rfe1 Nxe2 38. Rxe2 Rd8 39. Ne5 Rd2 40. Kf3 Rxe2 41. Kxe2 Kg7 42. Kf3 Kf6 43. Nc4 h5 0-1